Research

A recent explosion of research from neuroscience now confirms that the first years of life are critical for developing the architecture of the brain and children’s future capacities to learn. Neuroimaging now provides us with evidence that neural connections are made as a result of experiences with materials and relationships. Through activity, the brain actually grows. This research, combined with evidence from the behavioral and social sciences, confirms what early childhood educators and developmentalists have long known:

  • children construct understandings about the world through active, multi-modal experiences;
  • the whole child — social/emotional/physical development as well cognitive development — is involved in learning;
  • caring, warm, safe, and trusting relationships are critical elements of healthy development;
  • respect and responsiveness to children and families from diverse backgrounds — cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic, learning ability, gender, etc. — are essential to support learning;
  • variation in learners is a norm, not a problem; and
  • educators need to “inquire, notice, join with, and follow after” each learner – as the late Lillian Weber used to say – to ensure that all children realize their capacities for growth.

These understandings are bringing the importance of the early years to the attention of policymakers, leading to calls for investments in “high quality early learning.” But what does “high quality early learning” mean? And what does it actually look like in practice? This website features images of teaching to help elucidate what “high quality early learning” is.